A system with multimodality instrument for tissue identification includes a computer-controlled motor driven heuristic probe with a multisensory tip is discussed. For neurosurgical applications, the instrument is mounted on a stereotactic frame for the probe to penetrate the brain in a precisely controlled fashion. The resistance of the brain tissue being penetrated is continually monitored by a miniaturized strain gauge attached to the probe tip. Other modality sensors may be mounted near the probe tip to provide real-time tissue characterizations and the ability to detect the proximity of blood vessels, thus eliminating errors normally associated with registration of pre-operative scans, tissue swelling, elastic tissue deformation, human judgement, etc., and rendering surgical procedures safer, more accurate, and efficient. A neural network, program adaptively learns the information on resistance and other characteristic features of normal brain tissue during the surgery and provides near real-time modeling. A fuzzy logic interface to the neural network program incorporates expert medical knowledge in the learning process. Identification of abnormal brain tissue is determined by the detection of change and comparison with previously learned models of abnormal brain tissues. The operation of the instrument is controlled through a user friendly graphical interface. Patient data is presented in a 3D stereographics display. Acoustic feedback of selected information may optionally be provided. Upon detection of the close proximity to blood vessels or abnormal brain tissue, the computer-controlled motor immediately stops probe penetration.